John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™

The $91-Million Set-up Man

Carlos ZambranoChicago Cubs manager, Lou Piniella, has asked his $91-million pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, to become an eighth-inning set-up man. How do the Cubs get to the point where they are sending their Opening Day starter to the bullpen three weeks into the season? Here are the key facts:

  1. Ted Lilly, the Cubs best pitcher from last year, is rejoining the rotation this weekend after being sidelined by injury.
  2. Zambrano has a 7.45 ERA in four starts.
  3. The other four starters for the Cubs have a combined 2.16 ERA in 11 starts. Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny have respective ERAs of 3.15, 0.95, 2.45 and 1.93.
  4. Despite the great starting pitching by everyone but Zambrano, the Cubs have a 6-9 record thanks to a 6.14 ERA by the bullpen.

The bullpen is struggling so badly, Piniella is hoping that Zambrano can add some life to it. Zambrano is OK with the move. For now. He expects to get back to the rotation after the Cubs find someone reliable as a set-up man in the bullpen.

All in all, this is just par for the course for the Big Z. Zambrano is the Rodney Dangerfield of Chicago. He doesn’t get any respect. He is, by far, the best pitcher Chicago has seen in recent years, but Mark Buerhle gets all the respect over on the South Side. Don’t get me wrong–Buehrle deserves every ounce of that respect. In the last seven years, Buehrle as been one of the most dependable pitchers in all of baseball going 96-76 with a 3.90 ERA and a .744 Opponents’ OPS, throwing over 200 innings every year for the Chisox. In those same seven years, Zambrano has a record of 100-58 with a 3.44 ERA and a .664 Opponents’ OPS. He had five straight seasons of 200+ innings until falling a bit short, due to injury, in the last two years.

Why the higher standard for Rodney Zambrano? Part of it is his flamboyance. Buehrle is Mr. Lowkey while the Big Z shares his emotions on the mound like no other. Chicago fans are telling Zambrano that if you want to act like you are the best on the mound, you’d better show it.

The other reason for the higher standard is the money involved. Mark Buehrle’s four-year $56 million contract makes for a very comfortable life for the Buehrle family. That comes out to $14 million per year. On the other hand, the Big Z is in the midst of a five-year $91.5 million deal, over $18 million per year. With all that money flying around, the $4 million per year difference in their contracts may not seem like a lot, but Chicago sports fans sure think it is.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™,

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    April 22, 2010  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: John Dewan, observations, Stat of the Week, stats

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